Cider producers say the government's suggestion that smaller cider producers would not be hit by the 10% hike in cider duty "doesn't hold water".

The Treasury claimed small-scale producers would not be penalised because businesses producing fewer than 70 hectolitres are exempt from duty, but these are "relative minnows" in the cider-making industry, say cider sources.

"You're not really a commercial cider-maker if you are below the 70-hectolitre limit," said a spokesperson for the National Associa­tion of Cidermakers. "That's an operation of less than £10,000 a year before costs, so more like a hobby."

Suppliers said mid-sized producers, such as Brothers and Aspall, would be hardest hit. "It's using a sledgehammer to hit a nut and could affect some of the best-quality ciders in the country," said Aston Manor sales and marketing director Glenn Asquith.